The Morning Report
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The latest draft spelling out how California law enforcement officers will go about collecting data on people they stop is out.
The regulations are part of the implementation of AB 953, a law passed by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber in 2015 requiring all California law enforcement agencies to collect data on who is being stopped by police.
It won’t just be traffic stops that trigger data collection – most interactions in which an officer stops and questions or detain someone will require officers to record the criteria. It also applies to police officers who are stationed within public schools.
Some of the elements officers are required to report are objective, like the amount of time a stop lasted. Others are more subjective – which has some people worried. Attendees at a recent meeting of the state’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board expressed concern that officers would just be guessing on factors like race.
Indeed, the new regulations acknowledge that some categories will come down to an officer’s perception – including of whether a person is gay:
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Justice said in an email that “if the officer does not have any perception of whether the person is LGBT, the officer should answer ‘No.’”
Age, too, will be a guess: “The officer shall not ask the person stopped his or her age or use the age specified on the person’s identification, recognizing that the officer’s observation may not reflect the age specified on the person’s identification,” the draft says.
The state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training is required to develop training that “will likely assist officers in determining how to accurately complete the data that must be selected,” the Justice Department spokeswoman said. “In addition, the Department of Justice’s California Justice Information Systems Division, which will be collecting the stop data from law enforcement agencies, will be offering training on data collection and the submission of that data to the Department of Justice.”
Joe Kocurek, a spokesman for Weber, said having a record of the officer’s perception is, in fact, the point.
“Profiling is based on perception. Officers don’t ask the facts of a person’s age, race or sexuality before they stop and question them. We are interested in what officers perceive about an individual and whether those perceptions alone motivate these stops. The experience in communities of color is that you are target for stops by law enforcement if you are a black or Latino youth based on those characteristics alone,” Kocurek wrote in an email. “We also ask for other data, like outcomes of these encounters. If the individual was cited or arrested, we may deduce that the encounter was not motivated solely by a person’s perceived race, age, etc. The purpose is not to catch individual officers profiling, but to find patterns in policing that indicate that profiling is a problem and to use this data to inform policy changes aimed at reducing profiling in police work.”
Officers also must record the reason they stopped a person, and will fill out a section where they can offer more details explaining the circumstances. The same goes if a search is conducted – the officer must note that a search took place and detail the basis for the search.
The attorney general’s office is taking public comments on the new regulations until 5 p.m. on Aug. 15. (Disclosure: My husband works for the state Department of Justice.)
The Debate Over ‘Violent Crime’ Continues
How do you define “violent crime”? That’s the question dogging the implementation of Prop. 57, the 2016 ballot measure that sought to ease state prison overcrowding by making nonviolent offenders eligible for early parole consideration.
The measure passed easily despite arguments by law enforcement groups that the legal definition of a nonviolent felony is too broad — rape, for instance, isn’t considered a violent felony under California penal code — and voters were being misled.
(The measure’s authors said sex offenders are already excluded from early parole consideration.)
Last month, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation issued draft regulations for Prop. 57 and requested public input. Assemblyman Randy Voepel jumped into the fray this week – he sent the agency a letter arguing, among other things, that the regulations run “contrary to what was approved by California voters.”
One of Voepel’s concerns is that offenders serving consecutive sentences for both a violent and nonviolent offense will be considered nonviolent offenders once they complete the portion of their term for the violent crime. In another scenario, Voepel suggested a person who’s imprisoned for a violent offense and then, while incarcerated, commits a nonviolent offense (such as drug possession) and receives an additional sentence would be considered a nonviolent offender once that sentence begins and be eligible for early parole consideration.
“Ultimately, the regulations as written aren’t consistent with the text that voters supported,” Voepel told me.
Voepel’s not the only San Diego County lawmaker to take issue with Prop. 57. In February, Sen. Pat Bates introduced legislation that sought to expand the legal definition of a violent felony. While the bill, SB 75, had broad support from law enforcement, it failed after an analysis found it would worsen prison overcrowding.
Lynn Wu, a staff attorney with the Prison Law Office, said Prop. 57’s opponents need to be reminded that the law only allows for parole consideration — it doesn’t guarantee someone will be released.
“The parole process is very rigorous,” she said. “Very few people are actually paroled.”
Wu said she’s troubled by the push to narrowly define who can benefit from Prop. 57, which also allows offenders to earn good-time credits by enrolling in rehabilitative programming.
“The belief that if you commit a violent offense you are forever a violent person is contrary to the rehabilitative goals of [the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation,]” she said. “Credits should be based on the programs you complete, not the offense you committed.”
— Kelly Davis
Brown Signs Bills From SD Lawmakers
Gov. Jerry Brown continues making his way through the pile of bills that have made it to his desk so far, and recently signed two from San Diego-area lawmakers:
• AB 1057 by Assembywoman Shirley Weber allows the San Diego Center for Children to purchase a portion of the San Diego Armory. The nonprofit has leased the space for almost 20 years.
• SB 466 by Sen. Pat Bates would let rental car companies obtain info from electronic surveillance technology in the event one of its vehicles is the subject of an AMBER Alert.
Golden State News
• Employers are calling in ICE agents to retaliate against undocumented employees who complain about working conditions, the Los Angeles Times reports. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez responded by saying she plans to strengthen laws protecting workers from retaliation.
• California lawmakers say they’re facing an uptick in racist slurs and threats against them. (Sacramento Bee)
• A number of science and medical professionals are running for office in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, including California pediatrician Mai-Khanh Tran, who has an incredible backstory. (Mother Jones)
• California’s 2018 race for governor “will be an important touchstone for a Democratic Party still struggling nationally to find an economic message,” argues Anthony York. (Pacific Standard)
• Profiles, get yer profiles here! This week saw some great ones, including of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and two governor hopefuls, state Treasurer John Chiang and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. (California Sunday, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee)
• Despite the passage of Prop. 64, legalizing marijuana, “a huge portion of the state’s weed is likely to remain on the black market.” (CALMatters)